Tag Archives: hazing

SigEp Gold Shorts and Vest

Every pledge class president of Sigma Phi Epsilon must wear gold shorts and an American flag vest during their live-in week of their pledge semester. Live-in week is the last week of pledging where you essentially live in the house and become everyone’s bitch for a week. You stay in the house on the floor with your whole pledge class, and you only leave to go to class.”

The informant was unclear as to whether or not this hazing ritual was a national tradition. However, he was certain that it was the case at USC, given that he was forced to do it, as pledge class president.

Business Frat Hazing Tradition

My friend knows someone in a business frat who told her that one of the things they had to do as hazing was spend four hours locked in closet together in complete darkness.  While they waited the members played  the song called Trapped in a Closet on repeat.

My friend found this tradition to be rather simplistic.  She didn’t think that there was any point to this hazing tradition because it wasn’t teaching the hazed individuals any real lesson.  Instead it was just hazing for the purpose of hazing.

I agree with her, the hazing tradition is rather simplistic.  It doesn’t seem to have any purpose except to teach the prospective members to blindly do what they are told.  This is an unhealthy form of hazing because the lack of lesson is degrading and represses individuality.  As a result it reinforces the idea of hazing as cruelty.  This probably furthers the process of hazing from year to year because it will make new members them more likely to inflict this kind of cruelty onto others as their comeuppance for having them done to them.

The Goat Room

At Williams College in Massachusetts the frat system was dissolved in the 1960s but all the old frathouses still exist and have been converted into dorms.  They are identifiable as frat houses because they still feature the fraternities old symbols on the wall.  One of the most interesting hazing traditions that this frat took part in was at the end of the initiation process the current members of the frat would take all the prospective members into this room.  They would then bring in a goat and tell the prospectives they had one final task to complete before becoming a member.  Any man who sought entry into the house would have to have sexual intercourse with the goat that night.  The brothers would then leave and come back in the morning.  When they returned they would ask the prospective members who had “fucked the goat.”  Some would step forward.  Instead of lauding them for their dedication to the fraternity these men would be chastised in front of the group for their blind following of such a vile order.  They would be asked to leave and not admitted into the fraternity.  Those who had refused to have intercourse with the goat would be lauded for their strong character and offered a spot in the frat.

I went to visit the informant at her college and we participated in a 24 hour theater festival.  We were rehearsing in the goat room and I noted that I recognized the symbol on the wall as a frat symbol.  My friend and the other girl with us then proceeded to tell me the full story.

I think this story is very interesting because it plays with the expectations of fraternity culture.  You expect the brothers to come back and kick out those who refused to follow orders but in fact the opposite is true.  However the act still portrays fraternities in a negative light.  The prospective members underwent a traumatic experience and in the end they were not accepted.  This is perhaps even more traumatizing than following orders that lead to acceptance.  Either way the story prizes individual thinking over a group mentality.  It is also interesting to note that this story exists in a school where fraternities do not.  The story is probably making a commentary on the evils of the fraternity system and how the school is better off without them.

Your tongue sticks to it…

My informant is an archaeology student. Last summer, she attended a one month long field school through ARC Rome in Gabii, Italy. Field schools are an integral part of an archaeology student’s education. In addition to giving students such as my informant necessary experience in identifying and excavating archaeological sites, field schools are a rite of passage. Below, she recounts the good natured hazing she was subjected to during the field school.

 

“Last summer, I went to my first field school. I was working at the the site of Gabii, in Italy. Also in my field school was Dustin, who was from another university. He told me that an easy way to identify bone was to lick it. If your tongue stuck to it, you knew it was bone. Of course, I then tried licking all possible pieces of bone, as my amused field director watched. I kept licking things to check if they were bone, until one afternoon, when I found a particularly large object, covered in dirt. It was so covered in dirt that I couldn’t really tell what it was. After dusting it off as well as I could, I licked it. It wasn’t bone…It was a rusted iron spike! Then I figured that licking things was a bad idea. I don’t know if it’s true that your tongue sticks to bone, but I don’t think you’re supposed to try.”

 

Knowing that my informant was in her first field school, Dustin was able to take advantage of her naivety and persuade her to lick bone. These excavations are a liminal space, of sorts, between being an archaeology student and being a working professional in the field. Once you have completed your first field school, and all of the initiation rituals that entails, you are considered well on your way to becoming an archaeologist.

Town Meeting Never-Ending Applause

Endless Applause

Initiation tradition/Practical Joke

 

In my informant’s  school (grades 7-12), there are weekly school gatherings called Town Meetings.  In these meetings, any student may make an announcement. It is tradition that when the first 7th grader gets up to make an announcement every year, the students break out in applause, but do not stop applauding. The noise of clapping too overwhelming, the student awkwardly stands on stage and cannot finish the announcement. My informant thought this was funny, and enjoyed the tradition.

 

Although embarrassing to the victim, it allowed everybody else to laugh together, reinforcing the community. This is also a liminal activity that introduces the new students to the school, a form of initiation. Knowledge is key here; those that know the joke can partake. The seventh graders, who do not know the joke is coming, are the “other”. Once they know, though, the 7th graders become part of the community. A year later, those 7th graders (now 8th graders) can be part of the joke and laugh at the new 7th graders too.

Hazing- skinny dipping naked in fountain

My informant was visiting USC and on the second night of her stay, she went out to find a late night snack. While wandering around campus, she saw a few naked guys, presumably students, jumping around in one of the fountains. They then ran off. She had heard stories of such an act being part of hazing and so attributed the sighting to that.

Seeing that was interesting, she said, because she doesn’t personally see the value in something like hazing but knows it’s important to some fraternities and to some people. To her, though, it was just more evidence of the shallowness and lack of worth of most frats.

Hazing rituals have been going on in colleges for decades, and though administrations try to crack down, it always seems to remain. The rituals are usually embarrassing and uncomfortable, as well as sometimes dangerous. I believe their intention is to humble those who want to join the frat so they know their place. And because of their existence, actually being in a frat seems more significant since hazing makes it difficult to join. It makes it seem more exclusive and special. Hazing is also supposed to bond those attempting to join together via their humiliating experience. Personally, though, I’m not sure I see much point to the rituals. Many frat students seem to want to continue the trend only because they had to go through it; performing the ritual on someone else is like a taking back of power, a revenge for what was done to them, but exacted upon someone else. The rituals also often reflect this human desire to have power over others and even to inflict pain upon them, even if it something we generally repress.

Hockey: After a Trade, The Player Must Be Shaved

“I’ve heard that in the NHL, when a player is traded, his new teammates shave him from head to toe.”

My informant says he first heard of this ritual when he was on a hockey team while in high school in the 1980s.  He says that hockey is full of superstitions so initiation rituals are common, especially for rookies and traded players, but not necessarily for hockey veterans.  Some “newbies” go willingly and others are sometimes forced by their teammates.  He also explained that if this ritual is still practiced, it is one of the mild forms of initiation; others can be pretty sexual, grotesque and/or humiliating.  Nevertheless, this hazing tradition appears to be a type of purification ritual that literally cleanses the player of anything and everything he physically had while playing for his previous team.

Saran-Wrapping

Standard saran wrap will cling to itself, and using this property, it is possible to temporarily trap a friend in bed my tightly wrapping a few rolls around the width of their bed while they sleep.

 

My informant learned this practical joke when members of his club water polo team started to talk about it.  His teammates were also playing for their respective high school teams at the same time, and a few of them had just returned from a tournament in San Jose.  During the trip, they had succeeded in pulling this prank on the only freshman that played on their varsity team.  While away from home, the whole team shared a room of bunk beds for when they needed to sleep.  Early in they day, they pulled the freshman’s bed out from the wall, to make it easier to unroll the saran wrap around the width of the bed.  Once the freshman had fallen asleep, the rest of the team unraveled several rolls of saran wrap around the freshman, holding him in place.  The rest of the team woke up five minutes before the freshman and watched him struggle and scream a few times before he saw the saran wrap holding him down.

My informant thought this was awesome and he decided he would try it himself as soon as possible.  He told me that this prank can work as long as you share a room and it works best if the victim is sleeping on the top of a bunk bed because it’s easier to maneuver the saran wrap.  The victim will wake up and try to get up like usual, but none of his appendages will respond because they’re held in place under the layers of saran wrap.  They’ll be terrified, trapped, and paralyzed for a few moments until they figure out what has happened.  He also suggested that it’s used because the culprits bond as they plan the prank and it’s funny to watch the victim struggle in bed.

This prank closely simulates the human condition of sleep paralysis.  Someone suffering from sleep paralysis will experience temporary paralysis after they wake up.  It occurs when the brain awakes from REM sleep before the rest of the body.  The paralysis can last for a few seconds to a few minutes, until the person is able to return to sleep or completely awaken. To a person that doesn’t suffer from sleep paralysis, waking up with the inability to move can be terrifying.  One’s mind immediately starts to imagine life as a quadriplegic before looking for any reasonable explanation for the immobility.

I have a personal experience with this prank because my informant attempted to perform it on me.  We attended a weekend-long winter camp in high school.  On the first night, I woke up, it was extremely bright and it felt like there were daggers in my face.  I immediately thought to sit up and stop whatever was hurting my face.  There was a little resistance, and I sat up and saw my informant and friends laughing.  I punched a few of them before turning over and going back to bed.  In the morning my informant told me the group had tried to trap me in bed, but they could not get the saran wrap tight enough to hold me down.  Also, the group grew tired of waiting for me to wake up, so they shined a flashlight in my eyes.  When that didn’t work, they threw snow in my face.  This accounts for the brightness and the pain I felt on my face.  I was upset that I had been awoken from my sleep and that my face hurt from being covered in snow, but I was also glad that the group chosen to prank me over anyone else.  In this way, this was a rite of passage, as I had gone from an outsider to someone that was involved in their prank.  Similarly, the freshman mentioned earlier was accepted by his team in the same way.

“The Thunderstorm”

While the victim is unsuspecting or away, perpetrators will fill an empty, large trash bin full of water.  Then, when the victim leaves to use a public restroom and selects a stall, the perpetrators will dump the huge amount of water over the door of the stall, flicker the lights, and bang on the sides of the stall, simulating a thunderstorm.  Of course, the idea is to completely drench the victim while they are absolutely defenseless, with their pants down. This will put the victim in a completely uncomfortable position, at least until they can change their clothes. 

 

My source first learned of this practical joke when he found himself victimized.  Last year he lived in an on-campus dormitory, where between 20 and 30 male students live on a floor together and share a large, public-style bathroom.  Another student had heard of this prank and had been dying all semester to pull it off.

At the time, my source had changed into some comfortable clothes and was about to settle down and type out a report for one of his classes.  As time passed, he had to use the restroom.  Of course, the other student had filled a trash can with water earlier in the day and was waiting for this exact moment.  With the help of two other students, the perpetrator was able to dump the bin full of water onto my source.

“I was tired from writing the paper, and a bucket-full of water was what I least expected.  So, yes, I was completely shocked,” reported my source.  His first reaction was to cover up and get out of there as soon as he could.  Then he changed his clothes and set out to find the perpetrators. My source was not angry and realized that in the long run, this would be a funny story to tell, and this is why he decided to share this practical joke with me.

Many instances of practical jokes can be attributed to rites of passage.  The student who first had the idea had waited all year to feel comfortable enough around someone to make them the victim of this practical joke without them having hard feelings.  In this sense, my source had gone from friend to trusted-friend in the eyes of the perpetrator, and this prank was his rite of passage.

Ritual – Fort Portal, Uganda

Jail Hazing

I was incarcerated when I was seventeen years old. The policeman led to a cell full of older man of about 28years and older. When I reached the cell, one of the men – who I soon realized had a title of commander-in-chief – asked me if I had any money on me. Luckily, I had some and I gave it to him. He ordered everyone else not to touch me. In about half an hour, another inmate was walked into the cell by another guard. He was about 60years old. When the commander-in-chief asked him for money, he said he did not have any. Kenneth (the commander-in-chief) ordered other inmates to, what he called “introduce him to jail.”

They ordered him to strip butt naked. After stripping, he was ordered to bend over with his face against the wall. When he did, one of the inmates pulled out a horse pipe, which was connected to a water faucet. They opened the faucet and aimed the horse pipe to his anus. They horsed him down for a good ten minutes when the commander-in-chief ordered them to stop. I felt for this man but my remorse for him soon vanished when he welcomed the next inmate in a similar fashion. After a while, I also started welcoming younger kids of my age in the same way.

Analysis

If a humanitarian read about this brutal jail introduction process, he or she might file a big lawsuit against the jail guards. However, such introduction processes, however horrific they may seem, they often have a rather positive ending. It is this initiation process that helps an individual to understand the traditions of his new environment. In essence, we can call it an orientation process. Such practices always take place during the liminal period. A liminal period is a transition period between two stages. I can also call a liminal period a period between two different identities. Because it is a transition, it is characterized by ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy. That is why it is easy to make a 60year old man strip butt naked. He was in that susceptible stage. He was going from one identity (a freeman) to another identity (inmate). He just had to do whatever was asked of him in order to build his new identity.